A church accused of ‘comedy show’ sexism because it didn’t want a woman priest in the harbour town that Vicar of Dibley star Dawn French called home has done a U-turn and rescinded the decision.
There was uproar in May when 800-year-old St Fimbarrus parish church in Fowey, Cornwall, passed a resolution to only have a male vicar, with some residents angrily claiming it turned the town into a laughing stock.
But this week a newly-elected parochial church council said it would withdraw the move, opening up the possibility of a woman becoming priest.
Dawn French, 65, whose performances as the Vicar of Dibley made her a TV icon, bought a Grade-II listed clifftop mansion in Fowey with her then-husband Sir Lenny Henry for £2.3 million in 2006.
The actress sold the house to Welsh professor and scientist Sir Christopher Evans for £6.6 million in 2021. Sir Christopher, who founded biotech companies in the UK, made the Sunday Times Rich List 2020 in 583rd place with an estimated fortune of £208 million.
St Fimbarrus parish church in Fowey, Cornwall, passed a resolution to only have a male vicar
Ms French, 65, whose performances as the Vicar of Dibley made her a TV icon, bought a Grade II-listed clifftop mansion in Fowey with her then-husband Sir Lenny Henry for £2.3 million in 2006
When the ‘woman priest’ row flared in May, it led to all sorts of ructions.
Andy Virr, the Conservative councillor for Fowey, Par, Tywardreath and Golant, and Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for adult social care and health, quit as warden and chairman of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) in protest at the move.
Fellow church warden Carol Carruthers and her husband, PCC treasurer Graham, also resigned after supporters of the ‘no woman priest’ rule were labelled sexist.
Now there’s a new PCC and it has overturned the move.
The new PCC said in a statement that a number of ‘concerned parishioners’ felt the resolution to ‘appoint a male-only vicar was misguided and unrepresentative of the parish and the town’.
It added: ‘There was disappointment that this had happened without consultation and many expressed a strong desire for change.
‘Following recent widespread consultation with the congregation and the wider Fowey community, the PCC has voted unanimously to rescind the previous PCC’s resolution requiring male leadership.’
There was uproar in May when 800-year-old St Fimbarrus Church in Fowey, Cornwall, passed a resolution to allow only male vicars, with residents saying it turned the town into a laughing stock (Stock image)
The Rev Martine Oborne, who is among campaigners who have been calling for the system allowing parishes to reject women priests to be brought to an end, described the Fowey announcement as ‘very good news’.
The parish church will now advertise for a new part-time vicar with no specification about sex.
May’s shock announcement split the town.
One resident said at the time: ‘A prominent resident of Fowey used to be Dawn French, well known for playing the lead role in The Vicar of Dibley.
‘So you might think the local church would be familiar with lady clerics and the associated comedy.’
Another said: ‘These individuals need to wake up and come into the real world. I think it would be quite refreshing to have a female vicar.’
The ‘no woman vicar here’ decision was made by the PCC after some of the congregation said they could not remain within the church on theological grounds unless the priest was a man.
Vicar of Dibley characters (L-R, back row first): Frank Pickle, Hugh Horton, Jim Trott, Owen Newitt, Alice Tinker, Geraldine and David Horton
St Fimbarrus, built in the 13th century and one of the oldest churches in Cornwall, has been without a vicar for almost four years.
The previous incumbent, the Rev Phillip de Grey-Warter, controversially set up a rival Anglican church, Anchor, in the town after leaving the Church of England.
Earlier this year, the neighbouring parishes of Tywardreath and Golant welcomed a female vicar, the Rev Shona Hoad, as priest-in-charge.
Some townsfolk were dismayed at the continuing controversy which they fear is making Fowey a laughing stock.
One said: ‘The congregation dwindles further as less misogynistic worshippers have started go to Golant or Tywardreath for the services there.
‘So Fowey hasn’t got a comic lady vicar, nor a functioning vicar of either gender, and even the vicarage stands empty.
‘It doesn’t bode well for the long-term future of a classic church in the centre of the town.’
The Diocese of Truro said: ‘Fowey PCC passed a resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration. An change would require the PCC to revoke it and that is a decision for them. The diocese has no authority in that regard.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12350729/Church-accused-comedy-sexism-didnt-want-woman-priest-town-Vicar-Dibley-star-Dawn-French-called-home-does-U-turn-laughing-stock-decision.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Church accused of ‘comedy show’ sexism after it didn’t want a woman priest in the town that Vicar of Dibley star Dawn French called home does a U-turn on ‘laughing stock’ decision